Why 7-Eleven Taiwan is the Most Important Place You’ll Visit
The cultural heritage of Taiwan will sweep you off your feet, the food will make your taste buds tango, and your heart will be won with too many disarming smiles. But as you traverse the centuries of history, be sure to stop at the most relevant relic of the present: 7-Eleven.
With more locations than McDonald’s, 7-Eleven is truly a cultural phenomenon. It is the convergence of all walks of life. The early morning commuters stop to grab breakfast, students head there on their lunch break, and the 20-somethings buy everything they need to pre-game before a night of dancing–and then return to satisfy their late-night munchies. There is indoor and outdoor seating, giving you plenty of space to observe the cross-section of humanity that will appear before your eyes.
This little store has evolved so far beyond the gas-station 7-Elevens that exist in the States, that it is no longer the same beast.
But it is not only remarkable to see who frequents 7-Eleven. It’s also incredible to see what the Taiwanese version offers. This little store has evolved so far beyond the gas-station 7-Elevens that exist in the States, that it is no longer the same beast.
In a Taiwanese 7-Eleven, you can buy train tickets, call a taxi, and pay your bills. It is standard that if you order something online, you can go to your nearest 7-Eleven to pick it up and pay in person. This reduces credit card fraud, avoids giving the World Wide Web your address, and ensures the quality of your purchase. If you purchase over a certain amount at 7-Eleven, you receive a cute sticker with your receipt. You can use your public transportation card to pay in any 7-Eleven countrywide.
7-Eleven also makes it possible for you to win the lottery. This is due to a government policy that encourages businesses’ accountability and consumers’ better personal finance management. The incentive for both parties to do this is a monthly prize awarded to one lucky customer obsessive enough to check the lottery numbers printed on every receipt.
Until I knew the secret, I had no idea why the 7-Eleven employees absolutely insisted that I take a receipt. If I refused the receipt or walked away before it was printed out, I witnessed about as big of a hullaballoo as one could find in Taiwan.
Weather means nothing to 7-Eleven. Even in the worst of storms, it stays open 24 hours. In fact, here is an account of events as they happened under the influence of Typhoon Soudelor:
Night before typhoon expected to hit: I joined the rest of humanity in my street corner 7-Eleven to buy instant noodles, chocolate, and Taiwan Beer.
Morning of the typhoon’s arrival: Looking out of my 12th floor window amid the 170km winds, I saw that 7-Eleven was the only establishment still open–except for McDonald’s, hidden around the corner and out of sight. But, I only learned this later.
Weather means nothing to 7-Eleven. Even in the worst of storms, it stays open 24 hours.
The first pause in the wind, 15 hours later: With the company of my stir-crazy, hungry neighbors, I walked back to 7-Eleven. Incredibly, it was fully stocked. Employees were mopping up the rainwater that flooded the store, but other than the bedraggled look of everyone inside, it was business as usual.
So during your travels, remember to stop by a 7-Eleven Taiwan, grab a bag of seaweed flavored potato chips, and enjoy the show. And know that as soon as you step inside a 7-Eleven, you’re part of it too.